The California Department of Parks and Recreation will soon decide how to implement the Parks Forward initiative, which recommended creation of a state-sponsored nonprofit to raise private money to support state parks. Though well intentioned, the initiative fails to consider two popular and successful alternatives for management of Californias state park system.
One alternative, currently trending across the country, is a public-private partnership where the state retains ownership but lets a company or nonprofit trust manage the land. For example, New York City manages Central Park this way, with nonprofit organizations handling general operations, providing the majority of operating funds and investing in capital projects. Moreover, in California there are already more than 400 parks privately managed to some degree using variations of the public-private partnership model.
The second option is to cede state parks to land trusts, organizations dedicated to land preservation and conservation. There are more than 150 land trusts in California preserving more than 2.5 million acres. Land trusts already manage an area larger than the size of Californias state park system of 1.6 million acres.